Before Saturday’s 9-5 win over the Chicago White Sox, I asked Phillies manager Rob Thomson about how he has to manage his bullpen usage when he’s getting such great outings out of his starting pitchers.

He talked about when that happens, how you have to map it out and be organized. He mentioned how he had to throw Matt Strahm and Orion Kerkering Friday because they hadn’t pitched in several days. He followed that up by saying the plan was for Seranthony Dominguez to pitch at some point Saturday because he, too, had not pitched in a while.

But immediately after saying that, Thomson decided to throw a caveat into the equation.

“I mean, Wheels might go nine. Who knows, right,” he said.

He was thisclose from once again pulling off one of his Amazing Kreskin routines when it came to prognostication.

That’s because Zack Wheeler was five outs away from his first career no-hitter.

It ended with one out in the eighth inning, when Chicago catcher Korey Lee inside-outed a ball down the first base line and past a diving Bryce Harper for the Sox first hit of the game. It was Wheeler’s 107th and last pitch of the game.

Dominguez did in fact come into the game and although he loaded the bases and Lee made it to third, he didn’t score, extending the Phillies starting rotation’s run of innings pitched without allowing an earned run to reach 31 2/3 innings, the longest in franchise history since August, 1969.

Now, the Phillies may not have played five consecutive games against teams as utterly woeful as the Sox and Colorado Rockies, as they have this season, but it’s still impressive to go parts of five straight games against major league competition and have all of your starters throw at least six innings without giving up an earned run.

In fact, since Wheeler gave up a grand slam to Pittsburgh’s Jack Suwinski last Sunday, Phillies starters have been absolutely remarkable:

  • Aaron Nola – 7 1/3 innings, 1 earned run
  • Ranger Suarez – 9 innings, 0 earned runs
  • Cristopher Sanchez – 6 innings, 0 earned runs
  • Spencer Turnbull – 7 innings, 0 earned runs
  • Wheeler – 7 1/3 innings, 0 earned runs

It was also the first time in the expansion era (since 1961) that the Phillies have taken a no-hitter into the seventh inning or later in consecutive games. Through 21 games the Phillies starters have lowered their ERA to 2.25 with a WHIP of 0.984.

If one guy was doing that you’d look at it and say those are All-Star numbers. But when five collective guys are doing it? That’s eye-opening. Wheeler was just the latest to get everyone talking.

He sliced and diced a wretched White Sox lineup that can’t hit major league pitching and only was able to make a dent to the scoreboard when they tuned up Ricardo Pinto – who was a cute story for one game, but ultimately might not be a major league caliber pitcher – for five runs in the ninth inning.

Were it not for a 10-pitch walk by Nicky Lopez to start the game, Wheeler may have a had a legit shot at the no-hitter. Not that he didn’t, carrying it into the eighth inning, but Wheeler admitted that with his pitch count rising – he was at 101 pitches after seven innings – that he knew Thomson wasn’t going to let him throw more than 120 pitches in the game.

“I told (catcher) J.T. (Realmuto) that I was going to try and get some quicker outs in the last two innings to try to go for it, but it didn’t happen,” he said.

Wheeler said he was basically pitching to contact, trying to put pitches more in the strike zone to induce contact. Lee was able to just get enough of one to guide it past Harper to break up the no-no:

It’s a good problem for Thomson to have, talking with pitching coach Caleb Cotham about starters reaching their pitching limits as they try to throw no-hitters, and it was probably a sigh of relief, in a sense, that the White Sox got a hit off Wheeler so he didn’t find himself torn with letting Wheeler give it a run and having to pull him to preserve his ace for the long haul.

In fact, he all but admitted that allowing Michael Lorenzen to go beyond his limit to get the no-hitter last season, while great in the moment, all but gassed Lorenzen for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

“When Lorenzen did it, right afterwards I spoke to that (and said) ‘there could be some side effects here,’ and there were,” Thomson said. “I don’t think Lorenzen really pitched the same way again until we got into the playoffs. There’s an effect (from pushing beyond a limit) and you got to be aware of that.”

It was nice for Wheeler, who was a three-time, hard luck loser following an Opening Day no decision, to also get some offense in a game he pitched for once. The Phillies banged out 12 hits and worked six additional walks. It made for some long innings, which was also a challenge for Wheeler, who admitted afterwards that he had to walk back into the batting cage under the stands to throw some pitches to stay loose while those longer innings were taking place.

But, again, those are first-world baseball problems for a team that enters Sunday on a five-game winning streak and five-games over .500.

Two guys who have been under the microscope for their lack of offense to start the season – Nick Castellanos and Johan Rojas – each had three-hit games.

Thomson made a prediction on Castellanos, too, before the game, saying he’s starting to see better swings out of the mercurial Phillies outfielder, and that even though they’d resulted in outs, it was only a matter of time before he broke out.

Thomson is sometimes uncanny with this stuff.

Castellanos hit a triple off the tippy top of the right field fence in his first at bat, and then laced two singles in his next two at bats, the last scoring two runs. He added a walk to boot.

Meanwhile, Rojas had a clutch two-out RBI single in the second inning, beat out an infield single, and was credited with a third hit when a pop fly down the right field line was knocked out of second baseman Lenyen Sosa’s glove by his teammate Gavin Sheets who nearly collided with Sosa.

If those guys get going the Phillies lineup gets really long and it can get scary.

Brandon Marsh hit his fifth homer of the year and Trea Turner upped his average to .350 with two more hits, extending his hitting streak to nine games. It was his ninth multi-hit game of the season already, and fourth in a row. He also has a personal-best, seven straight games with an extra-base hit.

The Phillies are rolling – as they should be against such inferior competition – and they’ll be happy later this season that they are banking these wins now.

They go for their second consecutive series sweep this afternoon with Nola on the mound before embarking on a 10-game road trip to Cincinnati, San Diego and Los Angeles to play the Angels.